Credit card giant American Express was fined $27.5 million by US regulators and ordered to refund $85 million to consumers Monday for deceiving and overcharging card users.
The Federal Reserve, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency all came down on the card issuer and bank for deceptive marketing and debt collection practices between 2003 and 2012.
The Federal Reserve also faulted Amex for deficient compliance risk management and internal auditing, in an investigation that focused on Amex subsidiaries American Express Centurion Bank and American Express Bank, FSB.
Richard Cordray, director of the CFPB, said Amex violated consumer protection laws "at all stages of the game -- from the moment a consumer shopped for a card to the moment the consumer got a phone call about long overdue debt."
The CFPB said Amex Centurion Bank had led customers who signed up for its Blue Sky card program that they would receive $300 and then never paid it; that both banks charged customers illegal late fees; that they did not report some consumer disputes to credit bureaus as required; and that they misinformed customers on how their credit standing would improve if they repaid certain debts.
In all, the CFPB said, some 250,000 customers were affected by the illegal practices and Amex and its subsidiaries would have to repay them around $85 million.
The fines include $9 million from the Federal Reserve, $14.1 million from CFPB, $3.9 million from the FDIC, and $500,000 from the Comptroller of the Currency.
Amex said it had agreed to pay the fines and refunds to settle the accusations.
The company said it had already set aside reserves for a "substantial portion" of the fines and refunds.